Succeeding in today’s competitive dance industry takes more than grace and technical expertise.
There is often an assumption that performance can ‘just happen’, but every production takes gifted and experienced producers to take an idea into rehearsal, and eventually to the stage.
Dance artists often hit a glass ceiling when it comes to getting their work ‘out there’, not knowing how to write funding applications, for example, or market their work in a digital age.
In order to traverse a challenging and rewarding career, artists must increasingly arm themselves with business know-how, and seek to develop the confidence and entrepreneurial flair to pitch and drive investment into their work.
Ultimately, it can take more than creative vision to see a production realised, or that dance studio opened.
One aim of the MA Dance & Creative Enterprise programme by Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) in Leeds, UK, is to encourage students to think more about their work in terms of the resource management needed to make conceptual ideas a reality.
Three modules of the program are geared at giving prospective dance artists the toolset to succeed in a competitive industry.
Fusing art and business, students define and develop their choreographic interests and artistic voice and learn essential tools that help independent artists to excel, including project management, business planning, strategic fundraising and digital marketing, to name just a few.
Becoming a student at NSCD entails studying in one of the best schools for the performing arts in the UK. NSCD forms part of the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, and currently ranks as one of The Guardian University Guide’s top five universities for Dance and Drama.
Leap forward with an MA in Dance and Creative Enterprise
Fifty percent of NSCD’s Dance and Creative Enterprise programme focuses on business, funding and marketing skills development, making it markedly different from their other MA programmes where performance is the sole focus.
The programme has a cocktail of practical applications, as echoed by international student Nga Man Cheang, who is currently on the programme. She is scheduled to graduate in 2020.
Originally from Macau, Nga started performing at age 13. Upon graduating with a BA, she began working as an independent artist, producing her own work with the goal of touring it. However, she lacked some crucial skills to put her plan into action and decided that she needed to learn more about the business side of dance.
“At the same time, I wanted to build my knowledge of choreography, movement and body dynamics under the guidance of experienced tutors in an inspiring, research-led environment. That’s why I chose the MA Dance and Creative Enterprise at NSCD,” explained the 24-year-old.
Through the lens of an international student
Nga said the graduate student lifestyle at NSCD has been rewarding, chiefly the experience of learning from a seasoned faculty.
“All of NSCD’s staff are sophisticated dancers, producers or choreographers who have been working in the industry for years; they have a wealth of expertise under their belt and connections to the industry. They can tell you most of the problems that you will face in the industry and teach you how to deal with them. Everything we learn in class has real-world applications, rather than based on purely academic models,” she said.
Nga praised NSCD’s student support, adding that the institution’s faculty are always on hand to help students.
“NSCD’s staff and educators are really helpful. The English Language Support for international students really helps to reduce our panic when it comes to academic writing. The openness of the school system gives us a lot of freedom to create and take risks with our artistic development,” she said.
Nga said NSCD provides clean spacious studios to ensure students enjoy a high-quality learning environment. Meanwhile, the programme also balances modules that help students to develop sound business and management skills without compromising artistic development.
“Everything we do in class can be directly applied to our future of work in the industry,” she explained.
Students undergo many small, creative projects throughout the course, encouraging them to stay innovative and push the boundaries of their imagination— critical to help them survive the creative industry. Students also write their own proposals for their projects, which urges them to think outside the box on ways to beat the potential hurdles they might face in the future, under the guidance of experienced producers.
With lighting playing an indispensable role in the performing arts, students of the programme also have the opportunity to design their own; the lighting studio— a black-box space— is always open, and technical help on hand, for students to bring their creations to life.
“As I continue to learn more in this programme, I discover things I’ve never thought about before. I find myself asking, ‘What else?’, ‘What is missing?’
“I think this is a really helpful habit to develop that I’ll take forward with me in my career, and as part of a continual process of becoming a better artist,” she said.
So, if you’re eager to develop the professional skills to take your dance career to the next level, NSCD will not disappoint.